We are reviewing proposals for Sharing Innovation, and I’ve been thinking a lot about what innovation means to us at The Nonprofit Centers Network. The dictionary definition of the word “Innovate” is to “make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.”
Sharing resources is an innovation in and of itself. For so long, we have been told that success looks like a nonprofit with a large staff, a building, and a strong back office. However, based on our recent research, many nonprofits don’t need that degree of capacity. Efficiency and effectiveness is about having the right tools for the job when you need them.
The thing I love about the NCN Community is that sharing space and services is only the first step. Our members are always looking outside the box to make others’ lives easier, whether that’s collecting a broader array of services under one roof for low-income families or rethinking the runway for nonprofits to purchase buildings. Every time I talk with a member, they surprise me with new solutions to problems I didn’t know existed.
For example, Ability360 outfitted their building with the same kind of elevators that hospitals use to make their office space maximally accessible to people with limited movement. Community Catalyst used their expertise with advocacy to create a pool of benefits that allows their original collaborative partners to share health insurance, but also to maintain their accrued vacation and sick benefits when they move between organizations.
What may seem like a small experiment to you can provide valuable lessons for the nonprofit sector. It’s important to pay attention to where you’re saving time or money or realigning resources to create a difference of value. Every failure is also incredibly valuable. After all, that’s how we got penicillin. Keep experimenting, keep improving, keep trying things new. Who knows what capacity we will unlock!
Need some inspiration for your innovations? Register now for Sharing Innovation on Oct. 3-4 and hear from the best and brightest in our community!